North York Moors
Why we love the North York Moors
Rugged yet beautiful, wild yet welcoming – the North York Moors National Park is full of surprises. It is home to England’s largest heather moorland, a rare landscape that blooms purple in summer and is criss-crossed with hiking and cycling routes, while the coast is famous for its wide sandy beaches, quaint harbour villages and thrilling surf breaks.
The national park sits to the north of York, and is easily accessible from the city on day trips. But you won’t want to scrimp on time, because there’s so much to do: go whale-watching from Staithes, join a stargazing festival, kayak the River Esk, explore the haunting abbeys of Rievaulx and Whitby – and much more.
From countryside to coast, here’s how to squeeze maximum adventure into your North York Moors holiday.
Follow in smugglers’ footsteps
The pretty fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay wasn’t always so picture-perfect. In the 18th century, its cobbled streets were a secret smuggling hotspot – though today they’re full of quirky boutiques, artists’ workshops and pubs. It’s a joy to linger in, as is the festival-loving, gallery-filled village of Staithes.
Walk on the wild side
Put a spring in your step! When you go hiking in North York Moors National Park, you’ll experience it in glorious detail: the swooping song of a curlew bird, the fresh scent of woodland, the spritz of the sea on a cold winter’s day. There are trails for every ability, including wheelchair-accessible options.
Fill your trip with festivals
To immerse yourself in local food and culture, look to the region’s vibrant festivals. From the fancy-dress parties of Whitby Steampunk Weekend (July) and WalkFest’s sociable hikes (May), to stargazing at the Dark Skies Fringe Festival (February), there’s always a new event on the horizon.
Escape on two wheels
Which trail to take? From flat forest paths to leg-pumping coastal tracks, the Moor to Sea Cycle Network offers 150 miles (240km) of cycling thrills – ideal for day trips or a week-long challenge. Or, head into those heather-topped hills on the 171-mile (276km) North York Moors Cycleway.
Get out on the water
The coastline is catnip for surfers, who come to ride Sandsend’s breaks and swells – along with sailors, windsurfers and paddleboarders too. Rent a board or boat from a watersports centre, or try kayaking and fishing on the River Esk. Yachties will love Whitby’s three-day Regatta (August).
See a different side of Whitby
Feeling brave? Join a ghost tour in the graveyard of Whitby Abbey, the looming ruin that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula. Or for a hands-on history lesson, visit the Endeavour Experience, a full-size replica of Captain Cook’s ship; the famous explorer lived in Whitby during the 18th century.
Things to do in North York Moors
Featured things to do
New year, new hobby? Sharpen your photography skills on an expert-led tour, snapping forests full of bluebells, newborn lambs in the fields, and Rievaulx Abbey’s spectacular daffodils.Learn more about workshops in the North York Moors
The wild heather blossoms in abundance this season, painting the moors pinky-purple in the summer sun. Its sweet scent fills the air, making this a sublime time for hiking and cycling.Learn more about the North York Moors heather
Follow that fin! From August to November, the coast is busy with minke, humpback, sei and fin whales – plus dolphins and porpoises too. Join a cruise from Staithes or Whitby.Learn more about coastal adventures in the North York Moors
Decked with glittering trees and sparkling lights, Castle Howard transforms into a winter wonderland – while Whitby has festive markets and fireworks at its annual Christmas Festival.Learn more about the North York Moors in winter
Places to stay in North York Moors
For a wild night, check out the national park’s quirky glamping sites – where you can bed down in safari tents, luxury yurts, woodland pods and more.
A great B&B offers stylish bedrooms and fantastic breakfasts, with a truly local welcome. Don’t forget to ask your hosts for their nearby travel tips.
From huge country houses with hot tubs and games rooms, to romantic seaside cottages made for two – what’s your self-catering holiday style?
Getting to North York Moors
If you’re arriving by rail, the stations at York, Leeds and Middlesbrough are the national park’s closest major hubs, and trains from London King’s Cross to York take around two hours. Manchester Airport is a two-hour drive from Helmsley, while the journey from Leeds Airport is one hour – putting the North York Moors within easy reach of destinations all over the world.
You don’t need a car to get around: public transport options are plentiful, and the Esk Valley Railway runs right through the national park between Middlesbrough and Whitby, and links up with great walks, attractions and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Meanwhile, the likes of Moorsbus and Moors Explorer operate buses throughout summer and peak weekends.
Want to know more?
For outdoor adventures, expert travel tips and all the best places to stay, check out the national park’s official website.